Disgruntled voters, primarily conservative Republicans, smell blood. The political revolution is on.
Incumbent Pennsylvania legislators who did not face challengers in the May 16 primary shouldn't feel too confident that they've survived the voter backlash.
Only 61 of the 228 legislators whose terms expire in 2006 faced opponents in the primary. But 18 of the incumbents were already sent packing by the voters, primarily by disgruntled conservative Republicans, in a political upheaval not seen in Pennsylvania for two decades.
The bloodbath included the top two Republican leaders of the Pennsylvania Senate, President Pro Tempore Robert Jubilirer and Majority Leader Chip Brightbill, who collectively spent $2.5 million to defend their seats against unknown and under-funded challengers. Jubilirer and Brightbill weren't just defeated at the polls, they were slapped around by voters.
Photos of Brightbill and Jubilirer posing with Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell were widely circulated by conservatives. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Those photos may have cost Brightbill and Jubilirer thousands of votes.
Any friend of liberal Ed Rendell is no friend of the Republican Party. That's the message Republican primary voters sent to Brightbill and Jubilerer, widely regarded as RINOs (Republican In Name Only.) The two veteran politicians were the most visible leaders of the pay raise debacle, in which legislators voted themselves pay hikes of up to 54 percent in the middle of the night without any debate.
Now comes a reality check for other incumbents. Almost all of the 40 incumbents who won on May 16 will face challengers in the Nov. 7 general election. And there's another 50 to 60 candidates waiting for a chance to take on incumbents in a year when voters want blood.
That includes independent, Libertarian, Green Party and Constitution Party members. There's even a Socialist Party member planning to run against a Republican incumbent in mostly-GOP Chester County. Don't look now, but Democracy is breaking out all over Pennsylvania.
How willing are voters to vote for somebody other than the incumbent?
Consider this. James Babb, a Libertarian who plans to challenge Rep. Carole Rubley in the 157th House District reports that he collected all of the signatures he needed for his nominating petition in one day — Tuesday, May 16.
Pennsylvania election law requires third-party and independent candidates to collect 466 signatures from district voters to qualify for the ballot in the 157th District, according to the Babb campaign.
The Babb for Pennsylvania volunteer team completed the task months before the Aug. 1 deadline. Registered Republicans and Democrats who showed up to vote in their primaries gladly filled page after page with their signatures.
"Now voters in our district will have a true choice in the fall," Babb said. "Many voters in our district are concerned about the never ending tax hikes and runaway spending authorized by incumbent Carole Rubley. I look forward to debating these issues at the earliest opportunity. I want to know why she keeps taking more and more of our hard-earned money."
Here's the rub. Rubley, who has represented the 157th District since 1993, did not vote for the July 2005 pay raise. She did not take the money as unvouchered expenses. Rubley has generally been response to the people of her district and is a member of the Jefferson Reform Initiative, a group calling for major changes in the way state business is conducted in Harrisburg.
In other words, Rubley one of the few incumbents who could make the case that she deserves re-election.
But she now faces two opponents in November. In addition to Babb, Rubley has to get past Democrat Rich Ciamacca.
Babb's platform includes a pledge to personally read all legislation that he votes for, and cite the exact clause in the Pennsylvania constitution that authorizes any new law he supports. He also pledges to pursue the repeal of all existing laws not explicitly authorized by the constitution. He advocates common sense, free-market solutions instead of expanded government power.
More information about the campaign can be found at www.JamesBabb.com.
So far, 18 incumbents have been punished by the voters and another four races are too close to call. Coupled with the 30 incumbents who retired rather than face the voters, we’ve already got nearly 50 new legislators headed to Harrisburg after November.
I predict another 15 to 20 incumbents will lose in the Nov. 7 general election. That will give us 60 to 70 new legislators. The people's revolution is on!
Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas